On receiving my first piece of email from the Soviet Union

Date: Mon, 4 Feb 91 11:27:07 EST

I've been reading an interesting set of books -- _The Politics of Nonviolence_, by Gene Sharp. In it, he makes the point that a leader leads only when his countrymen will follow. There are a number of reasons why people obey, but they are not fixed, and obedience is not certain and cannot be forced. If you want someone to dig a ditch, and he refuses, and you apply the ultimate sanction and kill him, you end up with a dead man and an undug ditch.

He also makes the point that nonviolent action is not so very different from violent action in many aspects, one being that its success is not certain. Viz Tienannmen Square.

Yes. But if enough people want freedom, they will have it, in spite of any amount of killing that the army does. Of course, I believe that they will be more successful using nonviolent action.

Gene also points out that obedience is never forced, even (and especially) in the upper levels of government. There's a great quote from Truman (approximately): "I pity poor Eisenhower. He'll sit behind this desk (tapping the desk for emphasis), and order this thing, and order that thing, and NOTHING will happen." Even as late as 1958 Eisenhower continued to be surprised that orders didn't carry themselves out.

There's also a quote from a Roosevelt Cabinet official (again, approximate): "You never have to do anything the first time a President suggests some course of action. The second time he asks, you can say that you're studying the issue. The third time, you had better do it. But, the President will rarely ask for something three times."

My point is that, given the shaky state of the Russian government, and the amount of change that Gorby is trying to bring about, it wouldn't surprise me if some of the more conservative elements are simply ignoring Gorby's orders.

For better or worse, people always do what *they* want, and they may choose to continue doing it even if you apply sanctions. Which is to say that you can't take a person's freedom away from them, they can only give it up.

Russell Nelson
Last modified: Thu Jul 27 10:52:53 EDT 2000